From all the team here, we wish you a wonderful day filled with family and fun.
See you in the new year!
Pciture by @Smidgedraws on isntagram.
From all the team here, we wish you a wonderful day filled with family and fun.
See you in the new year!
Pciture by @Smidgedraws on isntagram.
Setting the Mood
So here we are again, well into NaNoWriMo!
Today we’re going to take a look at how to set the mood of your writing, from simple scene setting, diction to dialogue, and how it wraps up. We’ll also mentioned briefly what to avoid (hopefully in a nice way). So, onward…
The Oxford Dictionary defines mood as:
“The atmosphere or pervading tone of something,” or “As modifier (especially of music) inducing or suggestive of a particular feeling or state of mind.”
When writing this can be as simple as the physical setting of your piece or, on a more complicated level, it could be represented by the thoughts and actions of your characters. If you’re writing a single short story the mood may not change. Conversely a novel will likely guide the reader through several different moods and back again repeatedly as the story arc unfolds.
We can look at mood in two different ways; mood in a narrative may possess a prevailing emotional aura of a words, or it could be a grammatical mechanic, such as the continued definition by the Oxford Dictionary:
“A category or form which indicates whether a verb expresses fact (indicative mood), command (imperative mood), question (interrogative mood), wish (optative mood), or conditionality (subjunctive mood).”
It’s quite a clunky definition but it can’t really be said in any other way!
So how do we create mood when we are writing, and how do we maintain the mood as we continue into a section or even change the mood? There’s quite a bit involved and some of it will come naturally to many writers – mood setting is as subjective as taste, colour and smell – people experience things differently (particularly between cultures). Let’s see where we can go with mood!
It is traditionally accepted in any story that the physical setting of your writing is the best place to start. Here we subject the reader to their core senses, from sight and sound to smell and touch, hopefully generating an emotional response in their juicy brains by whetting their taste for the atmosphere we’re trying to create. Role-players and games masters will likely be familiar with this concept since it is vital to creating the atmosphere in their collective story. Let’s get a bit of practice in!
Start by choosing a place to describe, literally any place at all – I’m going to choose a beach and then I’m going to describe this beach in two different ways. Here’s our first example of this beach:
“A terrible leaden pall hangs over the foamy brine as waves invade the beach in broken lines. Amidst the slate shingle, broken and rusted metal fittings lie discarded, cold from bygone and indifferent currents. A shattered wreck of an ancient boat lies upturned, its hull pitted and bleached by the elements. Lurking amidst the waves, clusters of seaweed hide, biding their time.”
Our second example is hopefully lighter:
“A warm breeze filters through blue Elijah grass as rhythmic waves rustle to and fro against the smooth shingles of the beach proper. Scattered about the foreshore are tiny treasures from mariners-old, the largest, an upturned boat, its hull home to ancient barnacles. From the silvery water wave great tendrils of seaweed.”
In these two examples we can see there is a very different mood. The first is darker and foreboding, the second is warmer, happier with reflections to a merry past. In both examples I give the sense of colour, temperature and weather to hint at the atmosphere, helping to set the mood. In the second I described the same place in detail, but in lighter, warmer thoughts – gone is the grey sky and invading sea and in their place are blue grasses with calming and rhythmic waves. Even the old boat is seen in a different light, more as a refuge for nature than a wreck.
These examples don’t necessarily need to cover the same details re-skinned to change the mood, it’s just easier to give an example that way.
TL;DR: By focusing on different objects in a little more detail than normal we can show the reader important factors that suggest the mood to the reader, rather than simply telling them about the mood
Word choice or diction is important in describing the setting. Diction is simply the choice of words and phrases a writer uses. By using different words, we can show or hint at different mental states, creating different responses between scenes if necessary. In the first example I’ve used; terrible, pall, hangs, broken, rusty, discarded, shattered, ancient, pitted, and biding, among others. These are all words with a negative connotation, invoking old, war-like and dark emotions.
In the second, I use words like: warm, rhythmic, smooth, treasures, home and wave. These all have a positive connotation, inspiring thoughts of comfort, relaxation and home.
Finally, when your characters are interacting in this setting, think about how they act. Using verbs, how do the characters move about the setting? Some very simple examples of this movement are creeping or tiptoeing.
When a character walks, we don’t see or feel much for the action of moving. Walking is non-descript. Running is a little stronger, but could just be a form of jogging and is vague. Tiptoeing or creeping however suggests caution. Caution is a challenge which could have catastrophic effects for the character if they fail and are discovered, or perhaps they are trying to be considerate as they drunkenly arrive home one night?
What if you don’t like those words? Well, there’s always a trusty thesaurus! Instead of tiptoeing, we could use creeping, slinking, or sneaking to equally or perhaps better describe the action of moving to instantly create a mood with our character actions.
Caution however when using words to describe the setting, which go hand in hand with using emotions to help portray the mood: using words that are directly associated with the emotions of moods is likely to read poorly, such as jealous and joy etc. Try to avoid the clichés such as happy sun, sleepy moon or angry wind. Unless you’re writing a child’s story book, of course.
Be creative though, and mix up your descriptions, use some alliteration and other literary devices to add a bit of spice.
These sorts of techniques come naturally to some writers, often in a purely subconscious manner. Don’t worry too much if you struggle with this – quite often it is subjective and I firmly believe that you get better at this with experience and life generally – read more and you pick up the vibes from other authors. It’s almost likened to a shared writing experience.
A little note on tone. Tone is created by the choice of words you select when writing. Tone is the narrator’s attitude rather than the mood, which is felt rather than read.
Choosing the moment of your setting is equally important when writing to enhance mood. By creating the setting with a narrative arc, you can create tension or excitement. Think about it this way; your setting should have a beginning, a middle and an end just like any successful story. Start with character action, include the setting, then move onto an element of the story, finally conclude with some sort of discovery. Let’s have a go at creating an example from the one above, I’ll change the direction a little to focus on the past tense. (P.s, its just a draft which may evolve as we go on).
“A terrible leaden pall hung over foamy brine and waves invaded the beach in broken lines as people, cloaks held tight about their necks, struggled forward through the wind. Amidst the slate and shingle, broken and rusted metal fittings lay ruined, discarded by bygone and indifferent currents. The people stopped abruptly. A shattered wreck of an ancient boat lay upturned, its hull pitted and bleached by the elements. The leaders of the people gathered and spoke in hushed tones; was this the vessel they had been warned about? Lurking amidst the waves, clusters of seaweed hid, biding their time.”
This example may be a little off-putting without more context, but the elements of tension and underlying horror or fright are present without actually telling the readers they should be feeling these emotions.
We have a start – people walking, a middle – discovering the upturned boat, and finally the end – a warning or worry about the discovery. It’s not a full narrative arc with a conclusive ending, but then not every ending needs to be conclusive! Have a go carrying out this step with your own location and see if you can match a mood. Get someone to read it and ask them what they feel from it.
The great thing about these skills is that they can be used for literally any genre. We’ve seen how mood changes with simple language use to cause tension to build up in small narrative arcs, powering your reader through to the end. So, we’ve covered mood with a setting with some examples, and we’ve mentioned diction as a strong tool for creating a feeling and a sense for a location, with some character action… what is next?
Pacing & Rhythm
Pacing is a great tool for creating mood in the form of tension, or lack thereof. Short and sharp sentences are capable of producing suspense when they play out over a paragraph – but careful not to overdo short sentences as it can lose its influence quickly.
Longer sentences, with commas, help to produce vivid and deep thought as the reader takes a mental breath at each clause. You’ll often find this in prose and poetry, but it is a valid literary tool for fiction. Getting the balance right is tricky but rewarding. Take time to read each line when you are editing and feel the bounce of the rhythm. If it fits the mood, then you’ve cracked it!
(I’ve covered dialogue previously, but I’ll go over a few more ideas here.)
Here we’ll look at dialogue and monologue as a way of creating the mood in a literary piece.
Dialogue is communication between two or more characters, whereas monologue is simply a single character’s thoughts or words kept to themselves. Focusing on dialogue, we find that no two conversations are going to be the same, but their moods can be. As with the example above regarding setting, the same conversation can be had with different moods by use of diction and dialogue. However, unlike with a descriptive setting, dialogue uses line and sentence length, grammar and punctuation to more effect. Let’s use an example to give us a better idea:
“This looks like a place in my dreams – perfect in every detail, right down to the shingle and the distant grey storm. There’s is not a bird in the sky or a lion on the shore, only the seaweed and the growing waves,” Eric said.
“We should move no closer. If we do, there’s a chance we will bring doom upon our people. Please. Caution, my lord. This is dangerous!” said Rolf, tugging at the tails of his beard.
“No. We look closer. Move.” Said Ragnar, pointing to the boat.
OK, it’s not book-signing quality dialogue, but it’s a very simple example of the mood. We know that they have arrived in a place (in context, the beach we spoke about earlier). There is something unusual going on as Eric thinks he has seen this before in a dream.
Eric talks in longer lines and focuses on the details of his surroundings – he is not worried, more likely overcome with wonder at the similarities between the place and his dream. Ragnar seems to be giving orders, despite the advice from Rolf who seems to be worried. Rolf talks in shorter sentences, suggesting he talks quickly. We added an exclamation mark to his speech to punch his meaning, suggesting he is tense.
Ragnar uses similar short sentences but in a different form; he is curt and to the point, giving the command to get closer with a single, final word. We get the impression Ragnar is not a thoughtful leader of his people, since he seems to be single minded about the situation.
Monologues work in much the same way: whereas a dialogue involves two more characters conversing on the subject, a monologue is self-centered on the character. A key difference however is the ability for the characters internal thoughts to be at a complete juxtaposition to their environment, which can add distance between the character and their surroundings. As with any dialogue, a monologue should only ever push the story and plot forwards, otherwise we do not need to read about it!
We can see that the dialogue on its own can be successful by itself, but by combining our examples of setting and dialogue, the mood and atmosphere are supported:
A terrible leaden pall hung over foamy brine and waves invaded the beach in broken lines. People, cloaks held tight about their necks, struggled forward through the wind. Amidst the slate and shingle, broken and rusted metal fittings lay ruined, discarded by bygone and indifferent currents. The people stopped abruptly – a shattered wreck of an ancient boat lay upturned, its hull pitted and bleached by the elements. The leaders of the people gathered and spoke in hushed tones; was this the vessel they had been warned about? Lurking amidst the waves, clusters of seaweed hid, biding their time.
“This looks like a place in my dreams – perfect in every detail, right down to the shingle and the distant grey storm. There is not a bird in the sky or a lion on the shore, only the seaweed and the growing waves,” Eric said.
“Move no closer. If we do, there’s a chance we will bring doom upon our people. Please! Caution, my lord Ragnar – this is dangerous,” said Rolf, biting at the tips of his fingers.
“No. Look closer. Move,” said Ragnar, pointing.
TL;DR, the setting and dialogue should relate to each other through the mood of the piece. Cute and sunny will likely lift the mood of most people unless they’ve suffered a terrible loss, likewise, dark and chilling is not likely to lift someone’s mood unless they’re part of the Addam’s Family!
What to Avoid
So the message that should be loud and clear by now is to not tell the reader how a character feels, particularly by using words such as happy and sad. Instead, we now know to describe the feeling and the reaction to the feeling. We can describe the surroundings of of the character in the setting to support any dialogue and emotions to create the mood. And the mood should develop with the narrative arc of the section and the whole piece of your writing to keep it flowing to a rhythm.
Show, don’t tell, as they say.
If you’re really stuck
Here’s an idea to get you out of a rut. Let’s say your trying to write the mood and you’re really stuck with where to start. My advice is start with what the characters sense first, or if there are no characters, what the reader would be to sense first. This is usually, sight, sound, smell and finally tactile. Write a list of single words you could describe the setting and mood with, any words that fit or could fit. When you’ve got a good number of them, go through them and cut out the ones that seem too weak or flimsy. Now put them in order as we just mentioned (sight, sound etc). Using this as a framework, start filling it out as a paragraph… then go from there!
That concludes this installment. It’s been a busy few weeks with all our projects on the go, but we’re enjoying every moment of it!
Don’t forget to leave a comment, like, or an upvote if you’ve found this helpful. We’re all for helping!
J.D Ferris, CC
And that’s that, it’s the end of the month, the end of Inktober. It’s a weird mix of feelings, relief at the end of time pressures, sadness at the end of the community and joy at having completed the challenge.
This last week (and a little bit) flew by and was full of fun prompts.
One notable pick from this week was to revisit a witch I’ve drawn before, which to me only meant one witch. It was a picture that I drew around four years ago when I was working nights and tired but I was so proud of it and still am! It helped me see that I could achieve what I wanted to if I only put the work in. And now, having revisited it I see that even more. Being able to see the change is motivating, so if you are having trouble with any creative endeavour look back on something you made some time ago and focus on the improvements.
LB got up to some cute shenanigans over the week. I really enjoy drawing him just living, enjoying his little life and having fun with his friends. As conceited as it may sound I love the characters and find them very cute. That’s what I’m trying to focus on, things that I enjoy, fun things that keep me going back to drawing, that’s what these have taught me.
So that’s it for this Inktober journey, it was challenging, informative and fun. I made some artist friends who were going through the same things and I hope that after the haze of Inktober fades I will make many more!
If you want to see more from me then Instagram is the best place and you can find me @smidgedraws
Thank you for reading my reviews for this Inktober, I’m sure I will be back at some point with other art projects.
Whatever you’re doing this year, have a-
Pigma Microns and a sketchbook
ipad pro 12.9 inches, apple pencil, procreate.
Smidge, of Smidge Draws for CreatorConsortium.com
Another week has gone by in the blink of an eye and so we have arrived at my third review. This week my brain became scrambled quite early on! I have no idea how it happened, but I misread a prompt from my digital list and created a completely unneeded illustration. Though I felt extremely embarrassed at the time, it allowed me to create a piece to catch up with which I was really pleased.
My favourite of my traditional Inktober pieces were two connected drawings. They were just silly pictures that were easy interpretations of the prompts but by golly gosh they were fun and (I think) very cute!
This next picture is my favourite of the week! It felt a bit cheat-y and I loved it! Creating digital art is still very new to me and the little things make me giddy. So the prompt was twin witches and it wasn’t long before the idea of bookends came to mind and voila! I copied and flipped the sketch of one twin, so it was easy to then add details that made them different.
So that was pretty much my week, filled with art and checking with J.A that I had read the prompts right.
If you like these check out the rest on Instagram or Twitter where I can be found @SmidgeDraws
Pigma Micron pens, Sketchbook
ipad 12.9 inches, apple pencil and Procreate
Smidge, of Smidge Draws for CreatorConsortium.com
Say ‘Pulp Fiction’ and most people think of Tarantino’s 1994 cult movie – the violence, the disgust, the horror of it all. Little will they know however of it’s working title; Black Mask, or what that even means. I’ll tell you what it means, but first let’s look more at what the true pulp fiction was.
According to dictionary.com the definition of pulp fiction is:
“Fiction dealing with lurid or sensational subjects, often printed on rough, low-quality paper manufactured from wood pulp.”
Pretty simple really, no set genre, not set style just cheaper printing and sensational content. But there is a history here and it’s quite cool – younger generations will have no idea what it was all about. Until now.
The pulps as they were also known as were counter to the slicks, glossy well made magazines for richer audiences. Despite the Americanisms, pulp fictions claim descendants from earlier styles and formats of literature; the penny dreadfuls of Britain and dime novels of the US. From these simple fiction papers came some powerful genres; those of us who love horror, fantasy and science fiction owe a lot to the pulp literature of the past – before the rise of those genres we only had pulps. And what a legacy to share.
Despite their massive popularity of the time, it was never easy for early authors to become accepted writers; some famous authors of fantasy, such as Robert E. Howard never truly made it big in their lifetime, posthumous success becoming more common. Even Lovecraft, who spawned an entire sub-genre of cosmic horror by himself only managed to gather a few dollars for much of his extensive work, which are now more popular than ever across all forms of media from literature, film and game platforms of all kinds.
Indeed, many famous authors began or boosted their careers with pulp fiction stories: Isaac Asimov, Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain even H.G Wells, the father of science fiction.
Pulp fiction covered everything from gritty westerns, dark crime thrillers, exotic fantasy and exceptional science fiction; all of which fell under weird fiction or some sort or other. But these weird tales grew into genres of their own, providing us with film noir and sword & sorcery, among others.
It wasn’t all great though. Often pulp magazines portrayed highly sexualised women in peril, a dashing hero nearby to risk his life in an attempt to rescue such a damsel – I’m not sure that sort of cover art would stand up in modern times, with good reason given the rise of equality since the 1950’s and the sexual liberation of women in the 60’s.
The rise of pulp fiction and its earlier descendants came primarily from financial reasons: the price. Quite simply, it was affordable fiction in a time before the internet, computers and films. It was your only escape that wasn’t the theatre, alcohol or underage pregnancy. You may be forgiven for wondering why the appeal seems to be lost in modern times.
Yet, at the height of pulp fiction there were millions of copies printed monthly, with some publishers boasting more than 300 pulp titles at a time, some from as early as the 1920s. The market truly was booming. The sensation didn’t stop in the US; the UK had its own share of pulp fiction, appealing to the young and the poor. You didn’t talk about which celebrity was fumbling their way through a dance-off, you talked about the characters and the situations of the latest pulp fiction. You probably had more in depth conversations about it too.
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, IF Worlds of Science Fiction, and Unknown were all leading the market in Britain, spanning decades (with artwork a little less sexualised, although still present).
It was not to last however. In Britain and most of Europe, the succession of two world wars left a shortage of paper material, forcing publishers to reduce the size of their prints and limit their publications to several times a year. What was monthly was now quarterly and this had a knock-on effect for the industry, which we are still suffering from now: it is hard for new writers to be read.
Not being noticed forced some authors into writing novels instead and a reduction in sales meant that publishing houses had to be picky about who they took on and what they published. Prime content became everything. It all started to feel very ‘safe’ and perhaps stale.
The effect is still felt somewhat today in that it is still incredibly hard to become a published author and make a living from it. Sure, as a consumer the content we have is better but the ideas are not as fresh, daring or fringe-worthy. And lets only mention briefly that now everything comes in the form of a trilogy of trilogies. Finding a single story novella is pretty hard in the bookshops of today!
Even self publishing is hard, at least to make your goal financially viable.
Gone is the golden age of the pulp writer.
Dost the Embers Stir?
Let’s be clear and honest though; reading a short story is fun! It doesn’t take an age, it is valuable time with oneself and is usually cheap – no huge investment. You can buy a small novella for less than £5 and that’s all you need – no TV or monitor, no subscription to Netflix or Amazon, nothing electrical at all (unless you’re reading at night).
But perhaps the best news of all is that there’s still hope. Hope that with the rise of online pulp houses like ThePulp.net and New Pulp Press who sell e-fiction for as little as $3-$6, there’s still a place to hide away from the world and live the life of your favourite (anti) heroes.
So back to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction; the working title, Black Mask was a US pulp magazine in the 1920s covering dark, gritty and corrupt crime stories. There was plenty of gore, violence and sex to fuel the 1994 movie, summing up the Tarantino’s tastes nicely.
So we’re going to have a go at bringing you some pulp fiction of our own, with a blog to run alongside it with our notes, plans and sketches to give you an idea of how much shit we put ourselves through! (I may have had a drink or two of Port).
War Of The Ring.
The board of this game is so big that audible gasps come from anyone who sees it emerge from the box. Expect more gasps as you shovel out the hundreds of cards and components. The amazement quickly tails off into some form of shock as you and your compadre realise that you have no idea how to play this game and won’t understand how to play this game for the next few hours.
I’m the kind of person that loves complex games. I see them as a challenge, a mountain to be climbed. I find that the more complex the game is, the more time I’m willing to spend getting to grips with it. It’s a value proposition as well as a preference.
Well, War Of The Ring provides complexity in spades. Of the five or so (3+ hour long) games I’ve played of this, the first two were basically write-offs as one player made some serious mistake that crippled their chances for the rest of the game, it’s not really the game’s fault, just the nature of playing something with so many (metaphorical) moving parts.
The story is as old as time at this point. One player takes on the role of Sauron and his limitless hordes while the other picks up the tattered banners of the free peoples, attempting to give Frodo and the boys time to trek half way across the world to chuck the infernal jewellery into the volcano and save the world.
What this translates to is the Sauron player grinning with glee as his orcs pop up every turn and constantly flow over the board towards the scant strongholds of elves and men. As the good player, you find yourself glaring out from just above your excessive hand of action cards as you frantically try to juggle all the different mechanics (diplomacy, moving the fellowship, separating your heroes, recruiting troops and many, many more) to try and get any edge you can against the forces of evil.
As the good player, you’ll lose a lot until you get the hang of managing everything, and at the end of every game, the Sauron player will look at you with some small pity in their eyes and ask “Do you want to play evil next game?” and you will sit up straight, puff your chest out and defiantly say “Hell no. Set up the board again, damn it.”
I think that is all that needs to be said.
Escape From Colditz.
In every gaming group, you will find one person who just loves being the authoritarian. Whether they always DM your games of D&D, play The Emperor in Dune every time or cackle with glee and search your pack without fail in Sheriff Of Nottingham.
This game is tailor made for these people, as one player actually plays as a group of dastardly Nazis hell bent on keeping the noble allied soldiers locked up tight inside Colditz Castle. The others play different nationalities of POW, all trying to evade the guards and escape from their prison.
This is sort of a worker placement game with movement, item collection and capturing mechanics. The German player gets a ton of pawns to patrol the gorgeously designed map of the castle grounds. There are rules that determine in which places the POWs pawns can be seen to be escaping, captured and sent to the “cooler”, to have the items they have collected taken off them and spat out into the central courtyard, to try and try again.
The items are used in specific places to cut through wire fences, descend towers through windows and aid you on the way to Switzerland when you make good your escape. This portion of the game is quite amazing, and you really do see your plan unfold as you evade and befuddle the German player and the game inevitably always ends in a madcap chase, as the German sends all his guards after you as you make your mad dash to one of the few escape points at the edge of the map.
One strange downside is that if you’re playing with more than two people, the POWs can’t work together (explained in the game as that they all speak different languages. A bit lame if you ask me.) So you sort of become a bit competitive about who’s going to try their plan next, but instead of ruining the feel, it just makes things funnier, as one player’s escape plan failing could provide you just the opportunity you need to see yours succeed.
This game always ends with one player swearing angrily at another.
We’re ending on a light note here as Space Hulk. While doling out heaps of punishment upon the loser, it is at least set against a backdrop of Grim Darkness. Nobody is the hero in the Warhammer 40k universe, so you can both laugh heartily as the horrible alien devourers rip your authoritarian Imperial oppressors to pieces.
So yes, one side will play the noble Terminators, who are attempting to secure sites of strategic importance aboard the moon-sized accumulations of ancient spaceships that float eerily throughout space. Apparently, these Space Hulks are always infested with ravenous horrors from another galaxy as the other player plays the hordes of Genestealers, whose objectives, while ephemeral, seem to revolve around trying to hug the Terminators to death.
This is another boardgame where you really get what you pay for. The massive box opens up and the thick cardboard tiles of the modular board almost jump out at you the box is so full. You get proper 40k models as well, including exclusive sculpts of the Blood Angel Terminators, Genestealers and the massive Broodlord.
When laboriously setting up one of the many scenarios in the thick book, you will be surprised at how long it takes and how big the boards get as you place tile after tile in an expanding maze of tunnels and corridors.
You will silently hope that you have all the right pieces for the map. But after the anxiety and half the night pass by, you can finally get to playing. You take your gun-toting superhumans and set them plodding along the ship’s decks, while the genestealer player places “blips”, counters representing an unknown number of aliens, at the edges of the board, usually inbetween the imperial player and their objective.
I do have some misgivings about this game, while the value proposition is good; I mean this box is packed full of gorgeousness, every game can sort of end up the same, with your terminators trapped in a room, hoping the other player runs out of genestealers before you succumb to their rending claws.
At the end you will both be exhausted and the winning player will shrug, smile and ask for another game. The other will then wipe the stress-sweat from their brow and politely decline.